In his last post, Brandon reflects on his semester abroad and shares 3 major ways he has changed, as well as vital advice for future study abroad students.
Hello, I hope your week is going well! This is my last post as an official CAPA blogger, and it is bittersweet. On one hand, this means that my time studying abroad is over and I get to return home to see friends and family, but on the other, I have had the most amazing experiences of my life while in Dublin and Ireland now feels like my home-away-from-home. I should add that I will not be returning home immediately, however. I am currently on a family vacation around Europe, and I will be spending some part of the summer working on a vineyard in Spain.
This is me outside Temple Bar.
I would like to spend my final post reflecting on my study abroad experience. Looking back on who I was before going abroad and who I am now, I can see several significant, positive changes. First, I am far more confident in myself. Being abroad separates you from your traditional support networks, be they friend or family-based, and it forces you to find strength within yourself. Second, I am more comfortable being friendly with strangers. In Europe, people talk to each other on the street and while they are out and about. It’s not uncommon to go for a walk and end up chatting to a nice elderly couple about America or some other subject. It has made me more sociable and comfortable with how I come across to others. Third, I am more culturally aware. As an American, I think that our education system and our society tends to see America as the center of the world. In many ways America has an enormous amount of influence internationally, be it economically or politically, but there is far more out there in terms of foreign cultures. I have traveled extensively throughout Europe and being in an alien environment with its own unique code of conduct and rules makes you see that there is more than just us. The world is vast, and I now have the cultural competency to appreciate and move more easily within other societies.
Spending more time in Europe.
Originally staying for a further period of time in Europe was due to my family’s plan to take a vacation, but I soon decided that I wanted to extend my stay even further. I figured that I was already in Europe, and how often do you get the opportunity to stick around without the pressure of school or a job, so why not? I am working at a home in Spain whose owner owns a wine tourism business, and I'm traveling where I wish on the weekends.
Griffith College in Dublin.
My advice to students who are thinking about studying abroad but aren’t quite sure whether it is the right decision is to just go for it. It seems scary at first, but the upsides are enormous. You get to see the world in a different light and actually live in another country while still having the safety net of college. That is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up on. Being away from home makes you appreciate it even more and realize what truly matters. Living in Dublin made me realize how much I valued my college community at home and how much my friends and family matter to me.
Going abroad will be putting yourself in an alien setting in which you don’t feel comfortable, but as you spend more time exploring and become culturally experienced, things don’t seem quite as scary. You begin to enjoy yourself, and such a small percentage of American students go abroad for school, so it gives you a leg up in the career field of your choice.
Rock of Cashel.
Studying abroad in Dublin has been one of the best experiences of my life. I made remarkable friends, traveled Europe, laughed, and lived far more than I ever thought possible. I hope that through this blog I have imparted a little bit of my experience to you and sparked an interest in going abroad. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing for you each week, and looking back on my posts, I think that I’ve put forth a reasonably comprehensive spread. Although my study abroad experience is now closed, yours is just beginning and as I set out on my summer adventures in Europe, I wish you all the best and suggest that you take the leap and go abroad (wherever you so choose; although my personal favorite is Dublin).
See more of Brandon's journey in Dublin.